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Can Police Shoot at a Fleeing Suspect? Yes, Rules Say -- In Certain Cases

By DNAinfo Staff | January 14, 2016 6:13pm | Updated on January 14, 2016 6:56pm
 Newly released video shows Cedrick Chatman, 17, was running away from police when he was shot dead.
Newly released video shows Cedrick Chatman, 17, was running away from police when he was shot dead.
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CHICAGO — On Thursday, the latest video showing a Chicago police officer shooting an unarmed black teenager was released. 

Cedrick Chatman, 17, was shot while running from officers after a chase on Jan. 7, 2013. The chase came after Chatman and two others allegedly robbed, beat up a person and stole a car. Police later spotted the stolen car and stopped it before Chatman jumped out and took off running, prosecutors said at the time.

Though police originally said Chatman turned and pointed a "dark object" at officers, the video appears to contradict that claim.

"You see him running away from the officers as fast as he possibly could — he never even begins to turn," said Chatman family attorney Brian Coffman. "Fry never says anything. He just gets out of the car, watches him run with his gun trained on him, and fires."

So is it within Police Department guidelines to shoot at a fleeing suspect?

It depends.

According to the current "use of force" guidelines, Chicago Police are only allowed to use deadly force if they believe it could prevent death or great bodily harm to a fellow officer or member of the public. That means police are not allowed to fire at people who are trying to commit suicide but pose no harm to others.

Chatman was unarmed, and it was later shown that he was holding a black iPhone box, though the guideline states that police only need to "believe" the suspect can harm someone in order to pull the trigger. A 911 call recording shows that the person who was carjacked was bleeding from the face and said, "I was beat... they dragged me out the car," though the person did not say if the attackers had weapons.

According to department guidelines, police are allowed to fire at someone who is getting away if that person a) is using a deadly weapon, b) indicates he or she will endanger human life, and/or c) has attempted or committed a forcible felony. (Forcible felonies "involve the infliction, threatened inflection or threatened use of physical force likely to cause death or great bodily harm.")

Chatman's alleged accomplices were later charged with felony counts of carjacking and robbery, in addition to murder (due to Chatman's death), though the murder charges were later dropped.

Following several high-profile police shootings, Mayor Rahm Emanuel in December promised "a major overhaul" of the Chicago Police Department's "use of force" policy.

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